Boko Haram: Three ways to fight human trafficking

Boko Haram's kidnapping of 200 Nigerian schoolgirls has cast a spotlight on kidnapping and human trafficking, which is not just an international issue, but one that touches the US as well. How can you identify and help victims?

Akintunde Akinleye/Reuters
The Islamist militant group Boko Haram claimed responsibility on Monday for the abduction of more than 200 schoolgirls during a raid in the village of Chibok in northeast Nigeria last month. In this image, people take part in a protest demanding the release of abducted secondary school girls from the remote village of Chibok, in Lagos on May 5, 2014.

Two weeks ago, a Nigerian high school was raided by armed militants from the Islamist militant group Boko Haram. These terrorists kidnapped more than 200 Nigerian girls – with new reports that the girls will be sold as slaves. Tuesday it was reported that eight more girls were kidnapped.

It’s a devastating case of human trafficking, but the girls’ distraught families say their pleas for governmental assistance in recovering their stolen daughters have fallen on deaf ears.

After a failed attempt to rescue their daughters themselves, the families went public with their story. Initially, the story did not gain much traction with the news media or news readers. This was another reminder, in my opinion, that the mainstream media tends to overlook cases of abducted girls of color. 

At least one study has found that white upper- or middle-class girls who are stolen in “stereotypical” abduction scenarios (such as that endured by Elizabeth Smart), receive disproportionate media attention: Nearly 800,000 children are reported missing every year in the US alone, of which only about 115 are stereotypical. Yet black girls’ stories – and those of other girls of color – are rarely get the level of media attention that white girls receive.

But now, finally, in the case of Nigeria, the world is listening. The girls’ dead-of-night kidnapping has made mainstream international news, and public outcry is visible across social media channels. For example, a petition has gathered nearly more than 300,000 signatures calling upon the Nigerian government to stop their political posturing and bring these girls home.

Simultaneously, I can’t help but think of their case in the context of another situation, which I learned about at the White House Research Conference on Girls, held by the White House Council on Women and Girls on April 28.

At a discussion during the conference, several attendees spoke to the need for increased national attention to the plight of black girls in Atlanta, Georgia, USA, where reports indicate that about 200 girls go missing every month – victims of human trafficking who are essentially sold, like the Nigerian high school girls, into sexual slavery. Yet this crisis in Atlanta is also flying below the national radar.

We have a moral obligation to defend all people’s basic human rights of life, liberty, and security. For any child to be trafficked, for anyone to be sold into slavery, is unfathomable – and yet it happens every day, all around the world, and yes, even at home in the US.

200 black girls disappeared from their high school in Nigeria two weeks ago; An estimated 200 black girls in Atlanta, Georgia, go missing every month. How many others are out there, victims of child trafficking, out of sight and out of mind? According to Unicef, the answer is devastatingly large: 5.5 million. 

This is a staggering problem, making it one we must tackle it together. Here are a few things you can do:

 ▪ Attend or plan a local rally on behalf of the Nigerian girls.

 ▪ Learn the signs of child trafficking, in case you can save a child near you.

 ▪ Download and read the End Trafficking Toolkit from Unicef, and share it with others.

The Christian Science Monitor has assembled a diverse group of the best family and parenting bloggers out there. Our contributing and guest bloggers are not employed or directed by the Monitor, and the views expressed are the bloggers' own, as is responsibility for the content of their blogs. Rebecca Hains blogs at

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